Jun 16, 2011

Foreign ownership of Aussie land: the peril of selling the farm

Foreign government-backed companies have begun buying up farmland around the world, with Australia’s vast tracts of top quality primary production land a prime target.

Tom Cowie

Crikey journalist

With the world’s population set to hit 7 billion later this year – and 10 billion by the end of the century – top quality agricultural land has never been more valuable.

Perhaps it’s with an eye for a good investment opportunity or, as some concerned observers believe, to protect against any potential future food shortages, but government-backed companies have begun buying up farmland around the world, with Australia’s vast tracts of top quality primary production land a prime target.

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32 thoughts on “Foreign ownership of Aussie land: the peril of selling the farm

  1. stephen martin

    Not mentioned here as it specific to Australia, is the large scale buy up of arable land in Africa by China.

  2. Liz45

    The question needs to be asked? As the ALP Govt has only been in operation for 3 full years, why wasn’t something done during the almost 12 years of the Howard Govt.? How long has this been going on for? How is the ‘ordinary’ person to know about this? I’ve heard ‘whispers’ from time to time via TV and newspapers, but I don’t think we’re as informed as we should be. Do other countries allow such purchases in their countries? I suspect not!

    Between the mining companies having their eyes on so much land for either CSG or coal, the impact on agricultural land in operation now is in possible danger, let alone land that is not used for agricultural purposes at this stage. I find this situation to be quite alarming. We have enough of our country owned by foreign individuals or companies – I think the Laws should be tightened re overseas people buying land or property in housing areas too. I think both State and Federal Govts have been very slack in this regard. The areas on the map look like a lot of country to me?

  3. Sexual Lobster

    Hypothetically we could end up with a situation in several decades time where Australians pay considerably more for food than we do now, but millions of people in countries such as Qatar have enough food to survive that otherwise might not. Is this so bad?

  4. Gavin Moodie

    I have yet to understand what the problem is here. 20 years ago there was a panic about Japanese buying up the Gold Coast but 50 years ago there could have been a similar panic about the Brits buying up the farm – if this weren’t covert racism.

    In general foreign direct investment in the economy is beneficial. Blocking foreigners buying farmland would depress the price of farmland, which of course Aussie farmers would altruistically accept as a contribution to salving their confected panic over food security.

  5. Son of foro

    “I have yet to understand what the problem is here.”

    A basic glance at Irish history might help here.

  6. Gavin Moodie

    I understand even less how Irish history may be relevant. Australia hasn’t depended for food on subsistence or even peasant agriculture for over a century.

  7. mikeb

    The question will be whether Australians will have to pay a significantly higher price for Australian grown food in the future. Assume that farming remains Australian owned and Qatar said “I’ll buy your wheat for $100 tonne” when the going rate in Oz is $80. What farmer would not take the higher bid? What difference does it make if the farm is foreign owned unless the owner cuts Australian consumers out of the market – and in this latter scenario what’s to stop the Aust Govt natonalising farms if there was a crisis? There may be constitutional problems with this but i’m sure if there was a crisis then …..

  8. Liz45

    I was surprised to learn the small amount of Aussie land that is used for agriculture. I can’t recall what it is, but I do remember thinking it wasn’t very big? Can we buy land in China or Japan? Or anywhere else? The US for instance?

    Isn’t Qatar filthy rich? Is this the country that got the gong for the Soccer World Cup in 2021 or so?

  9. Jackol

    Ultimately this is a non-issue ; if it ever did come down to Australians really going hungry while locally grown food was being exported because of foreign ownership of Australian agricultural land, sovereign risk be darned – it would be nationalised/regulated for local consumption faster than you could say boo. The land isn’t going anywhere.

    The vastly more important concern is the stupidity that is urban sprawl paving over the best agricultural land in the country around Sydney and other centres just because we can’t get urban planning priorities even remotely right.

  10. Gavin Moodie


    I agree that this is a non issue unless it is another manifestation of that apparently multiheaded monster of xenophobia.

    However, I think Son of Foro’s point is that even if the land is in your country a foreign imperialist power may force the spuds or whatever to be repatriated.

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